It’s Molly in the Making with Kasia Matyjaszek as she takes us through the process of illustrating Cornelia Funke’s riotously fun and feisty picture book, Molly Rogers, Pirate Girl. Take it away, Kasia!
Like with every picture book project I started with developing the characters. This is usually my favourite part of the illustrating process. It involves a lot of doodling, drawing the characters over, and over again, asking them a lot of questions, and drawing even more. This is how I get to know them – what they look like but also what kind of person they are. It is a bit like making friends with people in real life (the only difference is that I don’t really have many pirate friends!).
Here are a few initial sketches.
I had a lot of fun drawing the Captain Firebeard’s crew. There was quite a few of them and the challenge was to make them distinctive so they don’t look like the same person. I actually came up with a little bit of back story and some additional characteristics for each of the pirates to help me with the process.
For example, this is Morgan O’Meany. I imagined that he is the kind of person who likes to show off. He would be very much concerned about his appearance, work out a lot and wear expensive clothes and jewellery – this is why when the pirates rob a ship he goes for a chest with gold. I’ve watched videos with American rappers for research.
I also very much enjoyed coming up with random background characters like this one.
Once I’ve designed all of the characters, I started working on the storyboards and roughs – quick pencil sketches of all the scenes in the book. I usually use large sheets of cheap lining paper and just keep doodling and sketching.
Some of the initial sketches are very quick and rather illegible. Like this very first rough for the front cover. It’s very rough!
I would usually polish it a bit before sending it to the designer.
This is the final rough for the front cover:
And the final illustration in colour
Some illustrations are pretty straight forward as I know exactly what they should look like. With others it takes a lot of drawing, research and trying out various options before the scene is just right. The scene where the pirates are having a party was particularly challenging. I think I’ve tried about 12 different compositions.
Creating the final artwork in colour is usually a fun and very messy process. For Molly Rogers I used a combination of drawing, painting and paper cut. Quite a few times during the process my desk looked like it’s been raided by Captain Firebeard and his crew!
I work on all of the illustrations together instead of finishing them one by one. For example I would paint Molly’s character for the whole book, then move on to Morgan O’Meany, and so on.
Or spend a productive afternoon cutting out all the pirates’ pants!
When all the elements are ready, I scan them in and put them together digitally. It is a bit like tidying up after all the messy fun.
And ticking the boxes!
When all the boxes were ticked, it was time to send all the finished artwork to Barrington Stoke so they could do their publishing magic, and turn a set of illustrations into a beautifully designed and produced picture book.